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White Paper

New Topics on the 2014 Security+ SYO-401 Exam

Date:
Sep. 24, 2014
Author:
James Michael Stewart

Abstract

It has been three years since the last revision of the CompTIA Security+ exam. In early summer of 2014, the latest version SY0-401 was released. This revamped exam retains the same six domains as established in SY0-301, which emphasize security in three main areas: application, data, and host. New topics add attention and focus on cloud computing and mobile devices, while greater emphasis has been added to incident response and physical security. In your efforts to prepare for SY0-401, it would be a good idea to pay special attention to the new topics and issues added for this latest revision.

Sample

It has been three years since the last revision of the CompTIA Security+ exam. In early summer of 2014, the latest version SY0-401 was released. This revamped exam retains the same six domains as established in SY0-301, which emphasize security in three main areas: application, data, and host. New topics add attention and focus on cloud computing and mobile devices, while greater emphasis has been added to incident response and physical security. In your efforts to prepare for SY0-401, it would be a good idea to pay special attention to the new topics and issues added for this latest revision. For a complete and detailed explanation of each of these new topics, please consider attending a Global Knowledge Security+ training course.

The new version of SY0-401 is now available (as of May 2014). The previous version, SY0-301, will remain available until Dec 31, 2014, which is when it will be fully retired. For a complete list of exam topics, please visit www.comptia.org and request the exam objectives document. The revision of this exam is generally on schedule with CompTIA's historical practice of updating exam contents about every three years.

All CompTIA achieved certifications expire after three years. Certification holders will either need to earn continuing education credits to extend their current certification or take another exam to achieve the new version of the certification (for it's only a three-year lifespan).

It is also important to note that the SY0-401 Security+ exam continues to include performance-based questions. Effectively, the term "performance based" is used by CompTIA to refer to questions that require some form of interaction, problem solving, or concept application. These are questions that go beyond basic multiple choice. A performance-based question might require answering questions based on a video, categorizing attacks, filling out a security device's rule list, or performing drag-and-drop of security control labels into a logical network diagram. For a general overview of the concepts of performance based questions, CompTIA has provided a written description and a video presentation. These are acceptable from the Security+ information page located at www.compita.org; click on the performance-based link located in the test details table.

The SY0-401 exam is set to have a maximum of 90 questions, with a time allotment of 90 minutes, and a score of 750 out of a possible range of 100-900 in order to pass. These are the same parameters as the previous version of the exam. However, the 90-question maximum will only occur if you are assigned ONLY multiple-choice questions. For each performance based question, between three and six multiple-choice questions will be exchanged. For example, my test included six performance based questions, and my total question count was 66. With this rate of question count exchange, performance-based questions count more towards your score than a single multiple-choice question. Even though whether partial credit is given is not clearly indicated by CompTIA, it is of utmost importance that you spend sufficient time and attention in answering the performance-based questions.

While the percentage division of exam topics between the six domains has only changed slightly (a one to two percent variance), a fairly significant re-organization took place in addition to adding a plethora of new topics. This re-organization grouped topics together and often added new group headings or additional related items. For example, in section 1.1, a new heading called "Application Aware Devices" was added, but this was used to label the new grouping of "firewalls, IPS, IDS, and proxies," each of which was present on the previous exam's objective list. Also, some core, essential, or implied topics are now clearly listed on the objectives list (such as layered security and defense in depth), even though these were essential in exam preparation materials for previous versions of the exam. Thus, the items identified in this white paper are only the truly new topics rather than re-labeled or re-organized topics.

(Note: The number in parenthesis after each topic is the official objective sub-domain reference as defined by CompTIA for SY0-301. Please see the official objectives list at the end of this paper or from www.comptia.org for a complete accounting of the objectives.)

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